Despite the recent findings of triggering posters around campus, students are largely against the censorship of poster content.
“I do not think that we should have a posting policy. I firmly, wholeheartedly believe that there should not be anything that you have to go through,” Health and Wellness Chair and junior Katie Mansfield said, noting that she feels that screening posters would violate students’ right to free speech.
Conversations about a policy to regulate posters placed around campus started after student concerns were brought to Student Senate and the administration about posters that were found earlier this year that could potentially trigger survivors of sexual assault.
Some of these posters proclaimed “It’s Rape” in large letters, going on to explain consent, while others were headed with “Trigger Warning” and accompanied by a story of someone’s sexual assault. These posters ended with an email that people could send their stories to.
In response to these posters, Student Senate wrote an open letter to campus in last week’s issue of TKS, wishing to make clear that they supported the person posting these stories and did not want to silence them while encouraging these individual to consider that their posters could be triggering to students on campus.
“We support the person who is doing it, and we are in no way trying to silence them, but because of the places where these posters are being put up, they can be very triggering,” Diversity Chair and junior ChanTareya Paredes said.
Title IX Coordinator Kim Schrader said that she first saw the posters in mid to late September. Since they started to appear, she said she has had several students come to her to say that they were triggered by them or concerned that others would be. Schrader said the appearance of the posters made her concerned about survivors being triggered, and that the posters could result in retaliation.
“I have two concerns. One is that signage can be triggering and it’s important that we’re respectful and caring of people who are survivor-victims,” Schrader said. “My second concern is that the college has a strict policy against retaliation, and so while we want to honor the rights of individuals when it comes to free speech, it’s important that those activities not be targeted at particular folks in a retaliatory manner.”
Student Senate Vice President and senior Robert Turski said that some students were frightened or felt targeted by the posters.
“The poster that said ‘It’s Rape’ was scary, frankly. It was frightening. It sent a very strange tone on campus,” he said. “I know that some people felt weirdly targeted, I know that there was one put on the door of each frat house.”
Mansfield noted that she heard concerns from many students about the triggering posters, and suggested that students start a blog in order to share the stories of survivors, so that students would have the option to look at it instead of being confronted by posters in the hallways. She suggested that there could still be posters promoting the blog, but without the stories attached to them.
“I would love to see a blog dedicated to posting the stories of survivors. Having a blog space where they can post these stories … I think that would be a really positive way to do it,” Mansfield said.
The appearance of the posters has created discussion on campus about maybe forming a “Posting Policy” that would give students guidelines about what they could post on campus and where they could post it. Currently, there is no policy in place, but Associate Dean of Students and Title IX Deputy Coordinator Laura Schnack said that posters must abide by the college’s other rules.
“You cannot go to the Student Handbook and look up ‘Posting Policy’. There is not a written policy that specifically addresses where you can and cannot post. However, there are still expectations about posting. The posting is expected to still abide by our other policies,” Schnack said.
Turski said that he would support a set of guidelines, as long as it could be put in place with transparency in mind and not be silencing to students.
“I would be in support of a very, very loose set of guidelines. However, I don’t like censorship in any form and I want full transparency.”
Schnack suggested that even if a policy was not put in place, guidelines might be helpful for the community to clarify expectations on what is appropriate.
“Having something more written down about what our procedures actually are or about what our expectations are, even if it’s not a policy, I think would be helpful for our community,” Schnack said. “Obviously this had been creating a lot of dialogue for many reasons … anytime that expectations aren’t clear, there’s a concern there for me.”
Paredes said that she is unsure of what the best option for students is in terms of a policy on posters, but noted that Student Senate will have to represent the opinions of the student body.
“If the majority of the students wanted posters to start being screened, we as Student Senate would have to represent that regardless of our personal opinions,” she said.